Austria announced today that it is temporarily easing the lockdown for those who are not fully vaccinated against Covid-19 at Christmas time and on New Year's Eve due to a reduction in cases.
"Christmas must show us once again how important personal contact is with our loved ones and how time spent with them is precious," said Health Minister Wolfgang Mukstein.
"In recent weeks we have gained an advantage that we want to use. We want to use it to take a break at Christmas and remember what is really important,"
Austria was the first country in Western Europe to re-lockdown last month - the fourth time - as infections reached record levels. The decision sparked street protests.
With cases declining since then, the government eased the lockdown last week but maintained restrictions on the unvaccinated as well as plans for mandatory vaccinations from February.
"In recent weeks we have gained an advantage that we want to use. We want to use it to take a break at Christmas and remember what is really important," Mukstein told reporters.
Despite the seasonal easing, the Austrian government, like others around the world, is preparing for an outbreak of the most contagious Omicron variant. So far Austria has recorded 75 Omicron cases.
Although unvaccinated Austrians are generally not allowed to meet with more than one person at a time or with people from different households, they will be given the opportunity to attend gatherings of up to 10 people from 24 to 26 December as well as 31 December.
The minister added that for New Year's Eve, limited operating hours in the hospitality sector will be lifted.
He declined to say whether Austria would impose another full lockdown in January over Omicron but said the country was two to three weeks behind Denmark and Britain, where the situation was worrying.
"I cannot and will not rule anything out for January," he said.
Source: ΑΠΕ - ΜΠΕ, Reuters